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Mauritius Day 2 – Downwind Deluxe

Tuesday, 07 September 2010 17:21 | Written by 
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Cracking downwind! Cracking downwind! Credits: Barbara Yendell, surfski.info

Today’s northerly wind resulted in our trying a new downwind route (new for me at any rate) – and a squad of about twenty of us were bussed to Tamarin to paddle 16km downwind to Le Morne.


The wind was blowing 10-15kt and the waves maybe 1.5m...  20C beautiful clear blue water.   Classic stuff.  The breeze tended to blow us into shore, so we were working right most of the time:  couple of hard strokes to get onto the swell, then steer right, swoop left down the next run, work right...

This is what surfski paddling is all about.  We went into wind 3-4km before turning towards the distant loaf-shape of Le Morne, so we totalled some 20km in all.

Le Morne

Today's downwind route - Le Morne on the right (pic taken yesterday from the dolphin boat)

Pics from today's downwind run by Barbara Yendell, www.barbarayendell.com


Is Hank a dolphin?

Yesterday, swimming with the dolphins, it struck me just how clumsy and slow we humans are in the water.  There I was, finning as hard as I could, while they were slipping effortlessly through the water underneath me, flippers barely moving.

I had a forceful feeling of déjà vu as Hank McGregor came past me on the paddle this morning.  There I was paddling hard to catch a wave, when the white shape of Hank’s ski came slipping past a couple of metres away on my left.  He was just tapping, no apparent effort, yet within seconds he was gone, slipping from run to run.

Maybe not a dolphin exactly – but clearly a more evolved sea creature than I’ll ever be!

Insurance Rates for Brendan Rice

During the bus ride, Aussie Brendan Rice was commenting on the surfing and was chirped by his dad, Sean, “Surfing next week – you’re here to paddle this week!”

Clearly the message hadn’t sunk in – as we approached Le Morne, Sean took an earlier, narrower channel through reef than the rest of us.  Brandon was ahead of him, and immediately turned in towards the beach...  straight over the reef.  Pulling out of the first breaker, he was on the wrong side of the next one...  Sean, inside the lagoon, caught the ski as it arrived by itself!  Brendan insists that he wasn’t trying to repeat last year’s escapade and denies all rumours of increased insurance rates being levied on his hired ski.

Aussie Women are...

...here.  “These conditions are SO good,” said Ruth Highman.  “Especially after the flat, cold early morning training that I’ve been doing through winter.”  Highman finished 1:30 behind Michele Eray in Perth in January but has never raced against Nikki Mocke.  (Eray is in Europe competing in the Portuguese and Spanish surfski races and then goes on to compete in marathon K1.)  Nikki Mocke arrives in Mauritius with husband Dawid tomorrow.

Ruth Highman

Ruth Highman - loving the conditions

Set-up secrets of the pros

Ever wondered how many butt pads Hank McGregor uses?  Three... and he tapes padding onto the sides of the bucket too.  (He’s paddling a Fenn Mako Elite.)

Hank McGregor's seat

He prefers more angle on his feet than the stock Fenn footplate – and padded up it up too so his heels are about 3cm off the plate.

Foot plate

Matt Bouman is so tall that he uses a custom footplate setup on the Epic V10 for more leg-length.  The full-size footplate is removed and a half-size version installed instead.  Some padding on the “step” at the front of the cockpit for his heels, and he’s set.

Bouman & McGregor

McGregor helped him to set up the rudder lines, holding the rudder straight while Bouman adjusted the steering.  (No, Bouman didn't go in tight circles when he got on the water.)

Who else is racing?

 The pointy end of the race is likely to see:

  • Hank McGregor (SA)
  • Matt Bouman (SA)
  • Dawid Mocke (SA)
  • Jeremy Cotter (Aus)
  • Dean Gardiner (Aus)
  • Tony Schumacher (Aus)
  • Mark Anderson (Aus)
  • Tom Schilperoort (SA)
  • Herman Chalupsky (SA)
  • Hadyn Smith (Aus/Dubai)

Out of the first four in the list, word on the street is that Matt Bouman is still not 100% fit after recovering from his shoulder injury.  He reckons defending champion Hank McGregor is the South African to beat in this race.  

McGregor won the grueling 2-day Avon Descent a few weeks ago in Australia - the race was more of a scramble over rocks than a paddle in a river that was at the lowest levels on record.

Dawid Mocke was disappointed in his result here last year (he came third behind McGregor and Clint Pretorius).  He's on fire right now - he's won 4 out of the 4 ISPA World Series races he's entered this year (Perth, Spain, Durban and San Francisco) - but he's just had a 45km race in New York; the hard fought 28km US Surfski Champs and the 40km Chicago Shoreline Marathon...  He must be tired.

Jeremy Cotter would love to win this race - he's also had a busy trip to the US, but paddled one less race than Mocke (he was sidelined in the New York Mayor's Cup by illness).  He's also just 5-4 up against Mocke.  He's superfit - but this will be his first trip to the island, whereas Bouman, Mocke and McGregor have at least some local knowledge.

Latest Forecast

...says that Thursday's race will probably be held on the same route that we paddled this morning - with much the same conditions.  Saturday's forecast is now for a southerly breeze - which would be side-on to the paddlers....  I saw race director Anton Erasmus earlier looking at windguru and google earth, muttering darkly to himself...  

Reunion - Surfski Enthusiasts to the max

Pierre Berruyer is a contemporary of Olympian Philippe Boccara and was in the French ICF K1 team 20 years ago.  Now living in Reunion, he found surfski paddling a year ago and is here with 5 other paddlers from the island.  (Which means that about 90% of the Reunion surfski paddling fraternity will be taking part – how’s that for participation?!)

Pierre Berruyer

Pierre Berruyer

He’s also an osteopath – and when he heard that I was taking strain with my back, he offered to straighten it for me.  He took a look and after one of those ominous “ah yes!” comments that medical people make, and even more ominous cracking sounds as he crunched my ribs on the floor of the hotel room, he said, “it may be a little tender tomorrow!”

We’ll see!  Thanks Pierre!  (Later: sitting at the computer posting this story - back feels great, so far so good!)

Another day in paradise

The late afternoon sun is shining; there’s a gentle cool breeze rattling the palm fronds; the birds are calling and there’s cold beer in the fridge whispering my name.  Please, tell me that I’m not going to wake up.

Mauritius Ocean Classic

Skis loaded - on their way back to the resort - these guys have the logistics sorted

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